The BMI’s Doreen Ringer-Ross, John Williams, and BMI President Mike O’Neill at the 34th Annual BMI Film, TV & Visual Media Awards on May 9, 2018 | Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for BMI
John Williams has won five Academy Awards (out of a staggering 51 nominations), 23 Grammys, and seven BAFTAs—his proverbial awards room must look like the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. So one of the only things left to do to honor the most influential, most popular film composer of all time is to create a new award and name it—what else?—the John Williams Award.
That’s exactly what the BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc., the performing rights organization) did at their annual Film, TV, and Visual Media Awards on Wednesday, May 9.
John Williams accepts the new John Williams Award at the BMI Film, TV, and Visual Media Awards on May 9, 2018 | Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for BMI
After the normal round of awards was handed out to composers of high-grossing projects in various screen music categories—and a special award was given to Laura Karpman, Miriam Cutler, and Lolita Ritmanis for their work championing women composers—the clank of dinnerware at the black-tie gala quieted for a tribute to the 86-year-old legend.
In a video filmed for the event, longtime Williams collaborators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas praised their friend.
“What can I say?” Spielberg put it simply, addressing Williams. “You have made my career, in so many ways, what it has become.”
Layered between a montage of clips from some of the composer’s best-known films—E.T., Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Raiders—fellow composers like Alan Silvestri, Thomas Newman, David Newman, and James Newton Howard (all of whom were in the room) spoke about the enormous influence Williams has been on their work.
“I don’t know the man well,” Howard said, “but last time I saw him he gave me a big hug, which… I didn’t take a shower for about two months after that.”
William Ross, a longtime orchestrator for Williams, spoke about the “profundity” in every bar of the composer’s music, and argued that there was no question he’s in a league with Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.
It was testimonial after testimonial from the generation of composers who came after Williams, and who are now themselves the elder statesmen of film music. They thanked him and listed their favorite Williams scores and moments. Silvestri choked up when he described a cue from Superman: The Movie, in the scene after Clark Kent’s adopted father dies.
After 20 minutes of high praise, Williams took the stage and gave a characteristically deflective, generous, and professorial acceptance speech:
Video by BMI
The composer hardly needs another award or honor at this point in his unparalleled career, but it was clear in the room that night that if anyone deserves an award in their name, it’s John Williams. No one has done more for the art of film music.